Lifting Weights Will Make Me Bulky
Thankfully, this is a complete myth. Lifting weights will not make you bulky. If it did, every man would look like Arnold Schwarzenegger! Lifting for women is a lot simpler than you may think. Let's explore why so many people believe this myth, and why it is just a myth.
Heavy weight training leads to weight loss
Weight training speeds up your metabolism, as the more muscle mass you have the more calories you burn. Lifting heavy weights also raises your heart rate which also burns calories! So long as you are not overeating, you will not get bulky, and instead you'll actually lose weight!
Women don’t have enough testosterone
Testosterone is key when building muscle as well as a calorie surplus. Ask any bodybuilder, big muscles are not easy to come by, they're constantly eating to build their bulky muscles. Women’s genetics mean even if they are lifting heavy, their low levels of testosterone will sculpt and define their muscles without them ending up huge.
Heavy lifting increases your BMR
Your BMR is your Base Metabolic Rate and is the number of calories your body burns in a state of complete rest. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest when you're doing absolutely nothing! A pound of muscle burns around 6 extra calories per day than a pound of fat. Muscle is actually far more compact than fat; so the more muscle you build, added with the fat you lose from the extra calorie burn, the smaller you’ll actually become. The more lean muscle tissue you acquire, the more calories you’ll burn 24/7.
Reasons you may feel bulky after lifting weights:
As your hormones fluctuate throughout the month, your weight can change drastically. 8/10 women suffer from bloating before and during their period. Women actually gain pounds of water during this time due to the ability of oestrogen to cause fluid to be retained, which could be why you feel ‘bulkier’.
If you're new to weight training, when you first start training some women may experience weight gain, this unsurprisingly puts them off. The reason you may gain some extra weight when you first start weight lifting is that the muscles swell and retain more water as they repair. Once your body becomes accustomed to weight training this will become less of a drastic increase as your body recovers and settles into your routine.
Muscle weighs more than fat
For most women, this is a tough psychological battle as we’re taught the less you weigh, the better. Muscle actually weighs more than fat, so you may look smaller and leaner and yet be gaining weight on the scales. This is why it’s useful to take body fat measurements, or if you don’t have the equipment for that, a simple set of before and after pictures will help you keep your mind on track if your weight is going up. Your weight may change but so will your body composition.
Benefits of weights for women:
- It boosts your metabolism and raises your BMR so that you are burning more calories 24/7.
- Your chances of getting osteoporosis are decreased by increasing bone density.
- It is the most effective anti-aging activity to keep your body strong, fit and active.
- Weight training is empowering and will increase your confidence. Becoming strong can help you feel more confident in other areas of your life and help you to succeed not just in the gym.
- Weight training can enhance your curves, shaping your body with increased muscle tissue.
- Heavy lifting increases energy levels and mood through the release of brain chemicals that reduce anxiety and depression.
Tabata is a type of HIIT training that claims to burn as many calories as an hour-long run. But how does it work?
What is Tabata?
Japanese scientist Dr Izumi Tabata developed this 4-minute workout whilst training Japan’s speed skating team. Dr Tabata and his team conducted research on two forms of training: high-intensity interval training and steady state cardio. One group completed an hour of steady cardio on a stationary bike 5 times per week, whilst the other group completed 10 minutes warm up, followed by what we now refer to as the Tabata training principle, (20 seconds of all-out work followed by 10 seconds rest and repeated eight times in total), four times a week. The steady state group clocked up 300 minutes of training whilst the Tabata group spent under a third of that working out, just 86 minutes a week. After 6 weeks of following the routine, those completing steady state cardio improved their VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake) by 10%, however, the Tabata group not only increased their VO2 max by an average of 15% they also increased their anaerobic capacity (energy without oxygen) by 28%.
When describing Tabata, the creator says, "If you feel okay afterwards you've not done it properly."
Can anyone do Tabata?
Despite its extreme intensity, Tabata says “Everyone can do it but beginners should start with educated trainers so that they can work at the correct intensity for them”. When it comes to Tabata training, it is you against yourself, so there is no set speed or number of repetitions. If you’re not sure or have never tried it before, try the routine with a personal trainer or partner, that way someone is there to keep an eye on how you’re doing, as well as keep you motivated. If you have any underlying health conditions or are pregnant, however, this is not the routine for you.
How should I feel after Tabata?
Common symptoms of an effective Tabata performance include:
- Shortness of breath / Inability to talk
- Elevated body temperature
- Increased lactic acid
The Tabata training principle can be applied to any exercise to make an intense workout regime, but exercises which work the best tend to be big compound exercises, which require lots of muscle groups and lots of effort.
Examples of bodyweight Tabata exercises include:
- Kettlebell Swings
- Box Jumps
- Jumping Lunges
- Mountain Climbers
These exercises are all big calorie burners to make the most of your short workout and get your heart rate up quickly.
Workout at work: Tabata
Research has shown it is essential not only to exercise in the gym but to keep active throughout the day to keep healthy. Being so short, Tabata is perfect to pull out on your lunchbreak. Try bodyweight-only moves for a workout you can take anywhere and return to sit in your office guilt-free, as you’ll be burning calories to recover from your lunchtime performance for up to 24 hours!
Benefits of Tabata
- Save time - After a quick warm up all you need is 4 minutes for one round of Tabata.
- Increase your body’s Aerobic and Anaerobic capacities - Working with and without oxygen.
- Afterburn - Research has shown Tabata has an EPOC effect (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) and can burn up to 150 calories in the 12 hours after training.
- Tabata raises your base metabolic rate (BMR- The number of calories your body burns at rest).
- Maintains muscle tissue - High-intensity exercises stress the muscles to create an anabolic effect.
- Easily adaptable protocol - Bored of your Tabata workout? Just switch up the exercises!
There is a lot of discourse surrounding cardio, weight training, and rest days. No two people will give you the same answer, and there is a lot of debate to be had. So should you be doing cardio on your rest days or not?
How important is a rest day in working out?
Firstly, the question of whether you should do cardio on rest days very much implies that you primarily train using weights, because if you were running or cycling as your primary training principle, you wouldn't consider doing even more cardio on your rest days. So let's assume you train 4 times a week lifting weights, which leaves 3 potential rest days a week. You may feel like not doing anything at all for 3 days a week will mean that you won't make as much as progress as if you were more active, but rest is just as important as hitting the gym! When you are lifting weights, you are actually tearing your muscles. It is only when you eat, sleep, and recover that your muscles are repairing and growing back bigger and stronger than before. Therefore, taking a rest day is very important in working out. If you continue to train when you are feeling very sore and achy, you could potentially injure yourself and do more damage than good.
How much should you rest between workouts?
This differs from person to person. If you have only recently started training or have started a new regime, your body will need longer to recover as it becomes accustomed to the stress and strain. The longer you have been doing a particular sport, the less rest you will need as muscle memory starts to kick in; it's important to mix up your training so that you continue to see results. As a general rule, you should not train a muscle group that is already aching. If your legs are sore, you could still do an upper body workout for example but it would not be wise to go for a long cycle or do a spin class. Listen to your body as that is always the most important thing.
So as for doing cardio on your rest days. That depends on your individual goals. If you primarily want to build muscle, you do not need to do cardio on your rest days. However, if you want to strip fat and keep your cardiovascular fitness up, it is recommended you do a light cardio session like a run or swim between weight sessions. You should always have at least one day a week where you do absolutely nothing though so that your body has a chance to keep up and fully recover.
Sweating is the body's natural response to exercise. Water is a by-product of the aerobic training system, and sweat is also a natural way to cool ourselves down. But why do some people sweat more than others? And does sweating more mean you are burning more fat?
Does sweating help you lose weight?
When your muscles heat up as you’re training, your body works to cool you down which is why you sweat. The reason you may then experience a shift in weight is due to water loss, which needs to be replenished for your body to remain hydrated and avoid cramps and headaches. If you lose 1 litre of water through exercise, your weight will drop by 1kg. This is why you may see some bodybuilders at your gym weigh themselves before and after they've trained as it tells them how much water they've lost and therefore how much they need to replenish.
Sweating is caused by an increase in body temperature and heart rate. The act of sweating itself won't cause you to lose weight, but whatever caused you to sweat most likely will!
Are people who sweat lots less fit?
We are born with between two and four million sweat glands, the amount is determined by genetics and therefore, some people are destined to sweat more. Women have more sweat glands than men, but men’s sweat glands are naturally more active and so typically women sweat less. The amount you sweat has nothing to do with how fit you are, but is simply a matter of DNA. It can also be affected by your hydration levels, as if you don't drink enough water, your body won't have any to sweat out!
Sweat is a natural response to cool the body down so if it’s cold you could be training as hard as you possibly can and still not sweat at all. So sweat is not a measure of effort or calorie expenditure.
It's becoming more common for people to work through their lunch break, but this time is precious and you could use it to make a real difference to your health. Instead of staying at your desk, you could burn up to 300 calories doing a quick HIIT workout on your lunch break!
What is HIIT?
HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training, a training method which involves short bursts of all-out effort exercises followed by short rest periods. The aim is to maximise your calorie burn during a short amount of time by cranking your heart rate up with tough exercises. During HIIT you should be aiming for your heart rate to be in Zone 4 or even Zone 5, breaking the anaerobic threshold.
How does HIIT work?
The reason HIIT works so effectively is that it causes what we call an ‘afterburn’ effect. When you do HIIT, the intensity of the exercise causes an increased need for oxygen so we end up with an oxygen shortage. This means your body has to find more oxygen in order to recover, known as EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption). This, in turn, boosts your metabolism and burns more calories.
How long do I need to do HIIT?
A HIIT workout doesn't need to last hours and hours because of the intensity so they're perfect if you're short on time. Typically, a HIIT workout will last around 20-45 minutes to give your body a chance to burn enough calories for it to be worthwhile.
Lunchtime HIIT workout routine
What’s great about HIIT is it can be done using just your bodyweight, which means all you need is a little bit of space. If your office is cramped why not take this circuit outside? It’s intense enough that it will soon warm you up if it’s cold!
Before commencing a HIIT workout, be sure to warm up for 3-5 minutes. This can involve anything from jumping on the spot to star jumps, anything that will raise your heart rate and warm your muscles up so they are limber and protected from injury.
Top Tip: A lot of HIIT bodyweight circuits contain lots of exercises which put strain on the wrists such as planks, pushups and mountain climbers. Be sure to prepare your joints by circling your wrists back and forth before you get stuck in.
For each of the following exercises try 40 seconds of work vs 20 seconds of rest and then repeat from the top:
- Mountain Climbers
- Push Ups
- Jumping Lunges
- High Knees
- Heel Flicks
- Frog Jumps
- Plank Up Downs
- Shadow Boxing Sit Ups
These badboy’s are often given a far less PG name for a reason, they’re tough. A great all over body exercise to elevate your heart rate and kick things off.Burpees
This move fires up your abdominals whilst keeping your heart rate high. Assume a standard pushup position and run each leg in towards your chest as though you were running off the ground as fast as you can.
Another great all over exercise, push ups can be intensified by lifting a leg, or eased up by coming down to your knees. The trick with push ups is to make sure that despite doing as many as you can at speed, you still make the full range of motion – it should look like your nose is near touching the floor.
Adding plyometrics to any move makes it far more of a challenge. Assume your lunge position sinking nice and low, then as you extend through the legs jumps as high as you can and switch legs, so you are alternating the leg you lunge off, land in a lunging position with the other leg now leading the way. These are sure to set your quads on fire, but keep pushing through and use your arms to help drive you up.
Jog on the spot bringing your knees up as high as you can in front of you, tilt your pelvis forward and lean back slightly to get more abdominal activation.
Now reverse! Jog on the spot flicking your heels up to your bottom as fast as you can to keep that heart rate up.
Start with your legs together and feet facing out, squat down allowing your knees to turn out and then explode up straightening the legs before returning to start. Ribbit.Ribbet.
Start in a slight squat, so your legs are loaded with power, then jump sideways to the left and land on your left leg, with your right leg lifted off the ground. Now jump leading with your right leg and land on the right leg, with your left leg away from the floor. Use your arms to propel you further, opposite arm to opposite leg.
Plank Up Downs
Start in a plank off your hands, keeping your bum down and shoulder blades squeezed together to ensure your spine stays in neutral alignment. Bring you right hand down to an elbow plank position and then follow it with the left, now bring the right arm back up to a hand plank and follow it with the left. Avoid looking up as it puts extra strain on the neck.
Shadow Boxing Sit Ups
Lie on you back with your knees bent ready for a sit up, but this time as you brace your abs and bring your upper body up, throw a jab and a cross, punching towards the opposite knee. This adds some extra oblique engagement and makes the exercise a little bit more of a challenge. Breathe out as you lift up and punch.
What are the benefits of HIIT?
As well as the obvious benefits of keeping you busy during your lunch break and generally more active, HIIT also boasts these benefits:
- Training anaerobically increases your VO2 max.
- HIIT is anabolic, meaning you lose weight from fat and not muscle.
- HIIT increases Human Growth Hormone by up to 450% during the first 24 hours after your workout, which repairs damaged tissue and helps build muscle and burn fat.
- Evidence suggests HIIT can actually help suppress your appetite. Research in The International Journal of Obesity found those who participated in HIIT style exercise consumed on average 200 calories less and had lower levels of ghrelin which is your hunger hormone.
So next time your lunch hour strikes, why not grab your colleagues and challenge them to this anytime, anyplace workout. Don’t forget to pack your deodorant!
Workout at work, How to workout at work, Lunchtime workout routine, HIIT workout routine, What are the benefits of HIIT, How long do I need to do HIIT?